Archaeological heritage of Lanzarote

Archaeological heritage of Lanzarote

Lanzarote has an important archaeological legacy witnessed over the years, which allows us to delve into the different scenarios where the life of the island populations.

Through these traces we can learn more about some inhabitants who have always aroused the curiosity of researchers, and about whom much remains to be revealed.< /p>

The archaeological monuments of Lanzarote are not only a clear reference of Berber or Amazigh origin but also of the adaptations, influences and particular evolution followed in an area of singular isolation.

These monuments, sometimes ignored, when not savagely plundered, are of great value for interpreting the past of the island .

  • Fiquinineo Town

    Fiquinineo Town

    Excavations have resulted in important archaeological finds, demonstrating the confluence of the Majos culture of an enormous cultural value

Saint Martial of Rubicon

En la costa sureste de Lanzarote, al pie del macizo antiguo de Los Ajaches, en la zona de Papagayo, se sitúa el que se ha considerado primer asentamiento europeo en el Archipiélago Canario: San Marcial del Rubicón. Este enclave está en relación con la conquista franco-normanda de la isla, llevada a cabo por Jean de Bethencourt y Gadifer de la Salle, en los inicios del siglo XV.

Las condiciones naturales del lugar, en el estrecho que separa Lanzarote de la isla de Lobos y Fuerteventura, en una zona que permitía el fondeado de las naves; así como la existencia de agua y la posibilidad de construir una fortificación, determina- ron su localización y facilitaron su nombramiento como el primer obispado de Canarias en 1404 con el nombre de Obispado Rubicense.

Un incipiente núcleo que presentaba una torre, una iglesia-catedral, varios pozos, viviendas, un cementerio y zonas fabriles. Sin embargo, Teguise terminaría por hacerse con la hegemonía económica, poblacional y política. El traslado de la catedral a Gran Canaria, en 1485, precipitaría la decadencia de San Marcial, a lo que sin duda contribuyeron los ataques piráticos.

Los elementos más destacados son los pozos por su gran importancia en una isla con escasos recursos hídricos. Se encuentran a lo largo del cauce del barranco, al que en definitiva dan nombre. Aunque existe la referencia de siete pozos, en la actualidad se conocen sólo cuatro, de los que dos parecen ser los más antiguos:

La antigua torre, que pudo tener una línea perimetral de 6,80 por 6,80 metros, contaría además con otros elementos defensivos que la rodeaban. Se encuentra en un promontorio, sobre la playa y en la margen derecha del barranco de los Pozos. 

En el margen izquierda de dicho cauce, en una pequeña colina se ubicarían los restos de la primitiva iglesia-catedral de San Marcial, con unas dimensiones hipotéticas de 13'5 m de largo por 7 m de ancho. Las labores arqueológicas efectuadas no han proporcionado restos asociables a esta construcción, identificada sólo por la cruz erigida hacia 1862, cuando el párroco de Yaiza reconoce sus cimientos en este lugar.

Archaeological site of El Bebedero

The archaeological site of El Bebedero occupies a hollow very suitable for human settlement, as evidenced by the high number of archaeological remains deposited there and the powerful stratigraphic sequence that encloses them. Four archaeological excavation campaigns have been carried out in it (1985, 1987, 1990 and 2010), which have reported a large number of data, both archaeological, paleontological and environmental.

Some of the information collected has been essential for understanding the earliest history of the islands, especially in terms of the relationship established between the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean cultures of Late Antiquity. .

In the context of the stratigraphic sequence provided by El Bebedero, almost a hundred pottery fragments modeled on a wheel were recorded belonging to large amphorae containers, various metal artifacts made of iron, copper and bronze, and a glass bead. The stratigraphic position occupied by these elements, the C14 dating series, the typological study, in addition to the petrological, metallographic and vitreous analyzes made it possible to ensure their majority ascription to Roman culture, with time limits framed between the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Under Roman Empire. 

Tinache Caldereta

The Caldereta de Tinache site incorporates a site that in the 70s from the 20th century was almost totally destroyed due to the extraction of the sedimentological fill for the construction of enarenados. 

In the summer of 2005, a first excavation campaign was carried out, which was followed by a second during the year 2010. The removal suffered by the site critically reduced the intact areas where it was possible to locate archaeological records in primary position; however, the presence of powerful stratigraphic profiles very similar to those observed in El Bebedero and other sites on the island, provided a chronological sequence for the human occupation of the place that begins in the second century AD, in the middle of the Roman phase, and reaches until the 11th century AD But in addition, the depth and structure of the profiles allowed us to observe the existence of notable environmental alterations over the last two millennia, very marked after the change of Era, coinciding with the presence on the island of Roman peoples and/or romanized from the Círculo del Estrecho.

archaeological site El Descubrimiento

The discovery in La Graciosa of numerous ceramic fragments made around, and that the dates place between 1,100 and 900 before Christ, could imply that sailors arrived in the Canary Islands at the end of the Bronze Age. 

The location of archaeological remains dated as early as "it lacks antecedents not only in Canarian archeology but in all the African Atlantic coast" and opens "new perspectives on the antiquity of the knowledge of the islands",

They are amorphous fragments of pottery turned on a wheel, with reddish, orange and ocher-yellowish colours.

Town of Zonzamas

The broad central plain of the The island, as well as the area buried by the eruptions of 1730-1736, are considered the areas with the largest aboriginal population in Lanzarote and are home to the most important archaeological sites on the island.

This would be the space where the majos (the aborigines) built the Poblado de Zonzamas or Cueva de los Majos (not to confuse with the Cueva del Majo, in Tiagua). A few kilometers away was another important nucleus, the Gran Aldea, the current Teguise.

The town of Zonzamas presents a unique architectural complex, within the Canarian archaeological panorama. These are five semi-underground constructions that sometimes have  circular or oval plant, and in others, rectangular plant. It is partially surrounded by a wall of large stones, currently in a poor state of conservation, which encloses the cave traditionally known as Palacio de Zonzamas, place of residence of the last chief of the Island.

< ul>
  • Inside the enclosure there are several constructions known as deep houses (one of the types of primitive dwellings on the island), which are characterized by having their floors below ground level and , in this way, make the surface part low, which perhaps was intended to mitigate the effects of the wind.
  • There are other constructions whose functionality is unknown, highlighting a rectangular enclosure, partly buried , which is made up of a central corridor and several symmetrical compartments on the sides of it. I know various uses have been attributed to them, such as a warehouse or place of meeting.
  • The latest studies suggest that it may have been the home of the last dignitary of the island, Guadarfía (Wadarfi, 'liberated').

    The town, once the island was conquered, would continue to be inhabited, This data has been confirmed by archaeological studies that have revealed three different levels of occupation. In the deepest, the materials extracted are of exclusively prehistoric manufacture, while in the upper ones they are mixed with other European imports: fragments of nails, iron, Andalusian ceramics from the 16th century and Mojón-type ceramics, a pottery tradition on the Island that survived until recently.

    Where is it

    The Majo Stone

    Located next to the Quesera de Zonzamas we find, it is a station of cave engravings composed by two sectors of one and five panels respectively, with a total of fourteen silhouettes of human feet (podomorphs).

    To the south of the rocks, it is located another area with aboriginal archaeological material and some structures of dry stone with a quadrangular plan, although with the rounded corners.

    About 50 meters from the Quesera de Zonzamas is the efequén or circular religious construction typical of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. It is made up of a circle of stones. Sebastián Jiménez Sánchez identifies this building with a tagoror.

    Fiquinineo Town

    In the old Village of Fiquinineo or village of Peña de las Cucharas, near present-day Teguise, the Excavations have resulted in important discoveries archaeological sites, demonstrating the confluence of the culture of the Majos of an enormous cultural value, this  enclave, is one of the most important of the island for its high historical and heritage values. It constitutes an important housing complex that is completed with the nearby Las Cruces site. 

    It is one of the most relevant sites with pre-colonial remains of the that there is in Lanzarote, almost comparable in terms of its archaeological value and patrimonial with that of Zonzamas; Likewise, thanks to the excavations carried out, it is known that it is of a settlement that as a result of the Norman invasion and conquest, is occupied by the Moorish population brought as slaves to Lanzarote.

    In Fiquinineo eight enclosures of houses have been discovered and about a hundred meters there are another ten without investigating. The place stands out for the presence remains of the cultures, among others, of Majos, Moriscos and Portuguese. Thanks to the discovery of a charred barley seed, it has been possible to dating its oldest remains correspond to 1290.

    At the beginning of the 19th century, the town of Fiquinineo was buried by sandstorms, which made it easier for the constructions to be Preserved until today in a quite acceptable state.

    Where is it

    La Cueva del Majo

    It is located on the outskirts, northeast of Tiagua, in the land belonging to the farmhouse "Museo Agrícola El Patio", about 250 m to the east of the house of said farmhouse.

    La Cueva del Majo is a natural cave in a volcanic tube open at ground level. Rectangular and with large dimensions, divided by solid dry stone walls, into nine compartments, placed at sides of a central corridor.

    It is accessed by descending through several steps that communicate with a wide chamber whose height allows easy passage through its interior, since the chamber is 4.3m high.

    Among the materials recovered, there are numerous fragments of Aboriginal ceramics, as well as various stone tools were found, such as burnishers, cutters, pieces of stone from rotating hand mills, grinders, etc., all of which are exhibited in the aforementioned museum.

    The “Cueva del Majo” during the Civil War was a refuge and later as a dump. It is currently in an acceptable state of preservation.

    Buenavista Archaeological Site

    Buenavista is located in the central region of the island of Lanzarote, about 8 km in a straight line from the north coast, with an excellent view of the Riscos de Famara and the Chinijo Archipelago.

    The Buenavista archaeological site was revealed during an extraction of < i>"rofe" which, in the 1970s.

    In 2006, the first archaeological excavation campaign was launched at the Buenavista site, work that lasted for the next three years. As a result of these four campaigns, a large amount of information and archaeological records contextualized in a broad construction structure were recovered, highlighting several dozen pottery fragments modeled on a wheel corresponding to various containers (amphorae and other containers) and a terracotta, various metal pieces belonging to objects made of bronze, copper and iron, and a glass trinket, all immersed in a chrono-stratigraphic sequence that places it in the area of the Phoenician-Punic culture established since the end of the 2nd millennium BC in the Círculo del Estrecho .

    The extensive series of dates and the material records provided by Buenavista, together with the data provided by the La Graciosa coastline (El Descubierta site), raise new and interesting possibilities in relation to the initial process of human colonization of the Canary archipelago and with respect to the moment in which the pr Phoenician essence in the African Atlantic.

    Queseras of Lanzarote

    One of the most unique elements in the archeology of Lanzarote is represented by these cheese makers. Their name refers to the resemblance they have to a gigantic mold for making cheese, although, of course, they have nothing to do with such tasks. In fact, at present, its usefulness and meaning remain an enigma.

    There are references to three of these cheesemakers.

    The majos (aboriginal) made these constructions in a flat surface, carving into the basaltic rock, a series of channels elongated, more or less parallel, several meters long and, at its In turn, they present some small internal divisions.

    In this way, each of the grooves could have been formed by the wear caused by grinding. This theory is supported by the fact that lithic instruments have been located next to them, whose function was to crush or grind.

    However, other interpretations have been made, considering that it could serve to collect water, or be a place of cultural use. Thus, these canals could have been used to collect the milk spilled in the offerings, which, according to the chroniclers, formed part of the religious ritual of the Lanzarote natives.

    However, their location and characteristics do not seem to respond to the description made of these shrines. In the north of the African continent, in Morocco, this type of construction is also known, without a definitive interpretation.

    • Quesera de Zonzamas

      Quesera de Zonzamas

      It is close to the town of Zonzamas, between the Zonzamas and Maneje mountains, with views of Arrecife

    • Quesera de Bravo

      Quesera de Bravo

      La Quesera de Bravo, is located in the middle of Malpaís de La Corona, close to the Jameos del Agua, not far from a series of deep houses